KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Angela Harris will tell you her life changed in several ways since she transferred from Houston to Kansas State this season. A new team. New expectations. New coaches, too, and different goals.
Yet the one she laments most has nothing to do with basketball.
“It changed big time, because I don’t have a car anymore,” Harris said. “I used to have a car when I was at Houston, so if I wanted a 4-for-4 from Wendy’s, I could just be like, ‘I’m gonna go out to my car and get a 4-for-4.’ Now I can’t.”
So she turns to a couple teammates for rides to food stops: redshirt freshman Ayoka Lee and sophomore Savannah Simmons — “Yoki and Savvy,” Harris says — who share an apartment building with their new starting point guard.
The anecdote sounds like a joke, and maybe it is, but it can begin to reveal the way Harris has acclimated to life in Manhattan, where she has chosen to spend her final year of eligibility, starting at point guard for a team whose players she has known a whopping three months.
The journey starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday, when K-State hosts Omaha at Bramlage Coliseum to kick off the new season.
Harris’ game revolves around defense. It’s only a good game for Harris if she records at least two steals. She prides herself on being “a defensive dog out there,” she says, and she’s backed that up: she’s averaged 2.3 steals a game over the course of her career.
She’ll be asked to score, too, in large part because the player Harris is tasked with replacing, decorated graduate Kayla Goth, averaged 13 points across her final two seasons.
That’s where things get tricky. Harris isn’t just a new player transferring into the program. She’s a senior, and a point guard, and she’s being asked to try to replace one of the better players in K-State history.
So far so good, though.
“Well, the hardest position is point guard. There’s no doubt about that,” K-State head coach Jeff Mittie said. “And the hardest position for someone to come in and kind of get established as a leader, not irritate everybody by being too aggressive with that. I think she’s had a good balance with that. Her teammates really like her. She works hard.
“Those are the things I think she’s established well with our team. Now, it’s the basketball in between the lines, establishing those things.”
To Mittie, Harris is just what his club needed. In March, the Wildcats bid farewell to Goth, who had manned the point guard position for much of her four-year career. She graduated, though, so K-State needed someone to grab the offense by the reins and commandeer a relatively young roster.
So Mittie went to work.
It was a Saturday morning in May. Ten o’clock, to be exact, when the transfer portal opened. Mittie already was familiar with Harris from her days on the AAU circuit, so he had an eye on her.
Make no mistake: Several other coaches did, too.
But when K-State called, it was Mittie.
“Usually in the recruiting process,” Harris said, “a lot of coaches will send their assistants, and you’ll talk to the assistant for a couple of days, and then they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, let’s get the head coach on the phone.’”
Actually, Mittie had the wrong number. He had dialed Harris’ father, Garland, who was teaming up with Harris to help their neighbor move.
When Garland gave Mittie the right number, though, Harris liked what she heard.
The main points Mittie emphasized: Harris would fill a big need. He had watched Harris play, so he was familiar with what he would be getting. Nothing about Harris’ game would surprise him.
That was music to Harris’ ears. She left Houston because she wanted a new challenge. The Cougars didn’t make the NCAA Tournament in any of her first three years in the program, so even though she was scoring well — 11.6 points per game for her career — she wanted those points to mean something.
“My ultimate goal is to make the tournament,” Harris said. “I had a teammate who graduated with 1,000 points and 900 rebounds, and she never made the tournament. She graduated with nothing to show for it.”
Besides, Mittie was the first head coach to call Harris.
“That told me that he was very interested in me,” Harris said, “and he said some things in our conversation and told me that he had watched me play.
“There were a few schools that were like, ‘Well, we haven’t seen you play, but we looked at your numbers, and we need a grad transfer point guard, so you can come in and do this.’ And I’m just like, ‘Well, if you haven’t seen me play, how do you know what kind of player I am if you haven’t seen me play?’”
When May ended and Harris completed her coursework at Houston, she was ready to commit to K-State. Mittie clearly had the most familiarity with her game, and phone calls with other schools — like Rutgers and Florida — rubbed her the wrong way. Plus, she enjoyed her visit to Manhattan.
So she canceled her visits to those schools and signed with the Wildcats.
“I was tired of going on visits. I’m not going to lie,” Harris said with a laugh. “I was like, ‘This is the school that I want to go to anyway. Why waste those people’s time?’”
Now, Harris is a Wildcat. That’s good news to her.
Even better news: She’s adjusting to life without a car.
Now, she’s just fine with getting rides to Wendy’s.
“It’s kind of weird because I’ve never been one to ask people for things,” Harris said. “That’s just not me. I just don’t like being, ‘Hey, can you give me a ride here? Can you give me a ride there?’ That’s just not me. Here, I’ve kind of had to swallow my pride, because I ain’t getting nowhere if I ain’t got no ride.”